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Amid Snow, Square Tour Companies Weather the Winter

A student walks down Plympton St. on Monday evening, flanked by growing piles of snow. Amid forecasts of more wintry weather, administrators made the decision to suspend most operations at the University on Tuesday.
A student walks down Plympton St. on Monday evening, flanked by growing piles of snow. Amid forecasts of more wintry weather, administrators made the decision to suspend most operations at the University on Tuesday.
By Yifan Kong, Contributing Writer

The slow climb in temperatures marks the end of the off-season for tour companies in Harvard Square. Although this past winter buried many tour group businesses in weeks of slow or no sales—especially those that depend on last-minute bookings—the damage was lessened by the industry’s anticipation of such seasonal cycles, according to tourism company employees.

For Trademark Tours, the company behind the "Hahvahd Tour," business did not noticeably differ from previous winters. CEO and founder Daniel Andrew attributed the steady numbers to the fact that most customers during the colder months are large companies that have scheduled months in advance.

“Even though the winter was very harsh, it really didn’t have as big of an impact as you might think,” Andrew said. “The Square is weather-proofed for group tours. They find a way to come and get their money’s worth.”

Other businesses choose to shut down for the off-season. Stewart E. Smith, a tour guide for Cambridge Historical Tours, said doing so allowed his company to avoid the storms completely.

The tour groups hardest hit by the weather relied on impulse ticket sales. Michael Chandler, director of sales and advertising for Old Town Trolley Tours, names this past winter as the worst the business has ever seen. Despite sustaining losses greater than 50 percent of normal attendance, however, business during the colder months is naturally so slow to begin with that the losses were not felt too deeply, said Chandler, who called himself "the Professor.”

“It’s not nearly as bad for us as it is for, say, a restaurant. From what I understand, they’ve been really hit because their business isn’t as cyclical as ours is,” Chandler said. “We can live through it.”

Chandler voiced his concern over the impact this winter’s heavy media coverage may have on the number of prospective tourists choosing to visit Cambridge in the coming year.

“Currently, all that’s happened in the news cycle is bad—ice and snow and terrible cold,” Chandler said. “Bad weather is a terrific ratings boost [for media outlets], but that kind of news depresses business.”

Even so, Chandler admits his company’s immediate prospects are not all negative.

“The mantra has become, ‘Thank goodness it doesn’t snow in July,’” he said.

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